Digital media

Hard drives store information in binary form and so are considered a type of physical digital media.

Digital media is any media that is encoded in a machine-readable format.[1] Digital media can be created, viewed, distributed, modified and preserved on digital electronics devices. Computer programs and software; digital imagery, digital video; video games; web pages and websites, including social media; data and databases; digital audio, such as mp3s; and e-books are examples of digital media. Digital media are frequently contrasted with print media, such as printed books, newspapers and magazines, and other traditional or analog media, such as pictures, film or audio tape.

Combined with the Internet and personal computing, digital media has caused disruption in publishing, journalism, entertainment, education, commerce and politics. Digital media has also posed new challenges to copyright and intellectual property laws, fostering an open content movement in which content creators voluntarily give up some or all of their legal rights to their work. The ubiquity of digital media and its effects on society suggest that we are at the start of a new era in industrial history, called the Information Age, perhaps leading to a paperless society in which all media are produced and consumed on computers.[2] However, challenges to a digital transition remain, including outdated copyright laws, censorship, the digital divide, and the specter of a digital dark age, in which older media becomes inaccessible to new or upgraded information systems.[3] Digital media has a significant, wide-ranging and complex impact on society and culture.[2]


Before electronics

Analog computers, such as Babbage's Difference Engine, use physical, i.e. tangible, parts and actions to control operations

Machine-readable media predates the Internet, modern computers and electronics. Machine-readable codes and information were first conceptualized by Charles Babbage in the early 1800s. Babbage imagined that these codes would provide instructions for his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, machines he designed to solve the problem of error in calculations.[4] Between 1822 and 1823, Ada Lovelace, a mathematician, wrote the first instructions for calculating numbers on Babbage's engines.[4] Lovelace's instructions are now believed to be the first computer program.[4]

Though the machines were designed to perform analytical tasks, Lovelace anticipated the potential social impact of computers and programming, writing, "For, in so distributing and combining the truths and the formulae of analysis, that they may become most easily and rapidly amenable to the mechanical combinations of the engine, the relations and the nature of many subjects in that science are necessarily thrown into new lights, and more profoundly investigated... there are in all extensions of human power, or additions to human knowledge, various collateral influences, besides the main and primary object attained."[4] Other early machine-readable media include the instructions for player pianos and jacquard looms.

Digital computers

Digital codes, like binary, can be changed without reconfiguring mechanical parts

Though they used machine-readable media, Babbage's engines, player pianos, jacquard looms and many other early calculating machines were themselves analog computers, with physical, mechanical parts. The first truly digital media came into existence with the rise of digital computers.[5] Digital computers use binary code and Boolean logic to store and process information, allowing one machine in one configuration to perform many different tasks. The first modern, programmable, digital computers, the Manchester Mark 1 and the EDSAC, were independently invented between 1948 and 1949.[5][6] Though different in many ways from modern computers, these machines had digital software controlling their logical operations. They were encoded in binary, a system of ones and zeroes that are combined to make hundreds of characters. The 1s and 0s of binary are the "digits" of digital media.[7]

"As We May Think"

While digital media came into common use in the early 1950s, the conceptual foundation of digital media is traced to the work of scientist and engineer Vannevar Bush and his celebrated essay "As We May Think," published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1945.[8] Bush envisioned a system of devices that could be used to help scientists, doctors, historians and others, store, analyze and communicate information.[8] Calling this then-imaginary device a "memex", Bush wrote:

The owner of the memex, let us say, is interested in the origin and properties of the bow and arrow. Specifically he is studying why the short Turkish bow was apparently superior to the English long bow in the skirmishes of the Crusades. He has dozens of possibly pertinent books and articles in his memex. First he runs through an encyclopedia, finds an interesting but sketchy article, leaves it projected. Next, in a history, he finds another pertinent item, and ties the two together. Thus he goes, building a trail of many items. Occasionally he inserts a comment of his own, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item. When it becomes evident that the elastic properties of available materials had a great deal to do with the bow, he branches off on a side trail which takes him through textbooks on elasticity and tables of physical constants. He inserts a page of longhand analysis of his own. Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.[9]

Bush hoped that the creation of this memex would be the work of scientists after World War II.[9] Though the essay predated digital computers by several years, "As We May Think," anticipated the potential social and intellectual benefits of digital media and provided the conceptual framework for digital scholarship, the World Wide Web, wikis and even social media.[8][10] It was recognized as a significant work even at the time of its publication.[9]


The digital revolution

In the years since the invention of the first digital computers, computing power and storage capacity have increased exponentially. Personal computers and smartphones put the ability to access, modify, store and share digital media in the hands of billions of people. Many electronic devices, from digital cameras to drones have the ability to create, transmit and view digital media. Combined with the World Wide Web and the Internet, digital media has transformed 21st century society in a way that is frequently compared to the cultural, economic and social impact of the printing press.[2][11] The change has been so rapid and so widespread that it has launched an economic transition from an industrial economy to an information-based economy, creating a new period in human history known as the Information Age or the digital revolution.[2]

The transition has created some uncertainty about definitions. Digital media, new media, multimedia, and similar terms all have a relationship to both the engineering innovations and cultural impact of digital media.[12] The blending of digital media with other media, and with cultural and social factors, is sometimes known as new media or "the new media."[13] Similarly, digital media seems to demand a new set of communications skills, called transliteracy, media literacy, or digital literacy.[14] These skills include not only the ability to read and write—traditional literacy—but the ability to navigate the Internet, evaluate sources , and create digital content.[15] The idea that we are moving toward a fully digital, paperless society is accompanied by the fear that we may soon—or currently—be facing a digital dark age, in which older media are no longer accessible on modern devices or using modern methods of scholarship.[3] Digital media has a significant, wide-ranging and complex effect on society and culture.[2]

Disruption in industry

Compared with print media, the mass media, and other analog technologies, digital media are easy to copy, store, share and modify. This quality of digital media has led to significant changes in many industries, especially journalism, publishing, education, entertainment, and the music business. The overall effect of these changes is so far-reaching that it is difficult to quantify. For example, in movie-making, the transition from analog film cameras to digital cameras is nearly complete. The transition has economic benefits to Hollywood, making distribution easier and making it possible to add high-quality digital effects to films.[16] At the same time, it has affected the analog special effects, stunt, and animation industries in Hollywood.[17] It has imposed painful costs on small movie theaters, some of which did not or will not survive the transition to digital.[18] The effect of digital media on other media industries is similarly sweeping and complex.[17]

In journalism, digital media and citizen journalism have led to the loss of thousands of jobs in print media and the bankruptcy of many major newspapers.[19] But the rise of digital journalism has also created thousands of new jobs and specializations.[20] E-books and self-publishing are changing the book industry, and digital textbooks and other media-inclusive curricula are changing primary and secondary education.[21][22] In academia, digital media has led to a new form of scholarship, called digital scholarship, and new fields of study, such as digital humanities and digital history. It has changed the way libraries are used and their role in society.[11] Every major media, communications and academic endeavor is facing a period of transition and uncertainty related to digital media.

Individual as content creator

Digital media has also allowed individuals to be much more active in content creation.[23] Anyone with access to computers and the Internet can participate in social media and contribute their own writing, art, videos, photography and commentary to the Internet, as well as conduct business online. This has come to be known as citizen journalism. This spike in user created content is due to the development of the internet as well as the way in which users interact with media today. The release of technologies such mobile devices allow for easier and quicker access to all things media.[24] Many media production tools that were once only available to a few are now free and easy to use. The cost of devices that can access the internet is dropping steadily, and now personal ownership of multiple digital devices is becoming standard. These elements have significantly affected political participation.[25] Digital media is seen by many scholars as having a role in Arab Spring, and crackdowns on the use of digital and social media by embattled governments are increasingly common.[26] Many governments restrict access to digital media in some way, either to prevent obscenity or in a broader form of political censorship.[27]

User-generated content raises issues of privacy, credibility, civility and compensation for cultural, intellectual and artistic contributions. The spread of digital media, and the wide range of literacy and communications skills necessary to use it effectively, have deepened the digital divide between those who have access to digital media and those who don't.[28]

The rising of digital media has made the consumer's audio collection more precise and personalized. It is no longer necessary to purchase an entire album if the consumer is ultimately interested in only a few audio files.

Web only news

As the internet becomes more and more prevalent, more companies are beginning to distribute content through internet only means. Prime time audiences have dropped 23% for News Corp, the worlds largest broadcasting channel. With the loss of viewers there is a loss of revenue but not as bad as what would be expected. While the dollar amount dropped roughly 2%, overall cable revenue was up about 5% which is slower growth than what was expected.[29] Cisco Inc released its latest forecast and the numbers are all trending to internet news to continue to grow at a rate where it will be quadruple by 2018.[30]

As of 2012, the worlds largest internet only media company, The Young Turks, are averaging 750,000 users per day, and are continuing to grow, currently having over 2 billion views across all The Young Turks controlled channels, which covers world news, sports, movie reviews, college focused content and a round table style discussion channel.[31]

Copyright challenges

Digital media pose many challenges to current copyright and intellectual property laws.[32] The ease of creating, modifying and sharing digital media makes copyright enforcement a challenge, and copyright laws are widely seen as outdated.[33][34] For example, under current copyright law, common Internet memes are probably illegal to share in many countries.[35] Legal rights are at least unclear for many common Internet activities, such as posting a picture that belongs to someone else to a social media account, covering a popular song on a YouTube video, or writing fanfiction. Over the last decade the concept of fair use has been applied to many online medias.

To resolve some of these issues, content creators can voluntarily adopt open or copyleft licenses, giving up some of their legal rights, or they can release their work to the public domain. Among the most common open licenses are Creative Commons licenses and the GNU Free Documentation License, both of which are in use on Wikipedia. Open licenses are part of a broader open content movement that pushes for the reduction or removal of copyright restrictions from software, data and other digital media.[36]

Additional software has been developed in order to protect digital media. digital rights management (DRM) is used to digitally copyright material and allows users to use that media for specific cases. For example, DRM allows a movie producer to rent a movie at a lower price than selling the movie, restricting the movie rental license length, rather than only selling the movie at full price. Additionally, DRM can prevent unauthorized sharing or modification of media.

Digital Media is numerical, networked and interactive system of links and databases that allows us to navigate from one bit of content or webpage to another.

One form of Digital media that is becoming a phenomenon is in the form of a digital magazine. What exactly is a digital magazine? Due to the economic importance of digital magazines, the Audit Bureau of Circulations integrated the definition of this medium in its latest report (March 2011): a digital magazine involves the distribution of a magazine content by electronic means; it may be a replica.[37] This is the out dated definition of what a digital magazine is. A digital magazine should not be, in fact, a replica of the print magazine in PDF, as was common practice in recent years. It should, rather, be a magazine that is, in essence, interactive and created from scratch to a digital platform (Internet, mobile phones, private networks, iPad or other device).[37] The barriers for digital magazine distribution are thus decreasing. At the same time digitizing platforms are broadening the scope of where digital magazines can be published, such as within websites and on smartphones.[38] With the improvements of tablets and digital magazines are becoming visually enticing and readable magazines with it graphic arts.[39]

See also


  1. "Digital Media" (PDF). Technology Brief. University of Guelph. September 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Dewar, James A. (1998). "The information age and the printing press: looking backward to see ahead". RAND Corporation. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  3. 1 2 Koehl, Sean (15 May 2013). "We need to act now to prevent a digital 'dark age'". Wired. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 O'Carroll, Eoin (10 December 2012). "Ada Lovelace: what did the first computer program do?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  5. 1 2 Copeland, B. Jack (Fall 2008). "The modern history of computing". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  6. "Sci/tech pioneers recall computer creation". BBC. 15 April 1999. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 Simpson, Rosemary; Allen Renear; Elli Mylonas; Andries van Dam (March 1996). "50 years after "As We May Think": the Brown/MIT Vannevar Bush symposium" (PDF). Interactions. pp. 47–67. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  9. 1 2 3 Bush, Vannevar (1 July 1945). "As We May Think". Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  10. Mynatt, Elizabeth. "As we may think: the legacy of computing research and the power of human cognition". Computing Research Association. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  11. 1 2 Bazillion, Richard (2001). "Academic libraries in the digital revolution" (PDF). Educause Quarterly. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  12. Lauer, Claire (2009). "Contending with Terms: "Multimodal" and "Multimedia" in the Academic and Public Spheres" (PDF). Computers and Composition. 26: 225–239. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2009.09.001.
  13. Ito, Mizuko; et al. (November 2008). "Living and learning with the new media: summary of findings from the digital youth project" (PDF). Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  14. "Digital literacy definition". ALA Connect. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  15. "What is ital literacy?". Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource. Cornell University. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  16. Cusumano, Catherine (18 March 2013). "Changeover in film technology spells end for age of analog". Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  17. 1 2 Carter, Beth (26 April 2012). "Side by side takes digital vs. analog debate to the movies". Wired. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  18. McCracken, Erin (5 May 2013). "Last reel: Movie industry's switch to digital hits theaters -- especially small ones -- in the wallet". York Daily Record. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  19. Kirchhoff, Suzanne M. (9 September 2010). "The U.S. newspaper industry in transition" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  20. Zara, Christopher (2 October 2012). "Job growth in digital journalism is bigger than anyone knows". International Business Times. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  21. "Publishing in the digital era" (PDF). Bain & Company. 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  22. Toppo, Greg (31 January 2012). "Obama wants schools to speed digital transition". USA Today. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  23. Horrigan, John (May 2007). "A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users". Pew Internet and American Life Study.
  24. Pavlik, John; McIntosh, Shawn. Converging Media (Fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 237–239. ISBN 978-0-19-934230-3.
  25. Cohen, Cathy J.; Joseph Kahne (2012). "Participatory politics: new media and youth political action" (PDF). Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  26. Kelley, Peter (13 June 2013). "Philip Howard's new book explores digital media role in Arab Spring". University of Washington. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  27. Rininsland, Andrew (16 April 2012). "Internet censorship listed: how does each country compare?". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  28. Crawford, Susan P. (3 December 2011). "Internet access and the new digital divide". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  29. Vranica, Suzanne. "Signals Weak for TV-Ad Market". Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  30. "Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2013–2018" (PDF).
  31. Ugyer, Cenk. TYT Network Passes 2,000,000,000 Views and 3,000,000 Subscribers!. YouTube. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  32. "Copyright: an overview". Jisc Digital Media. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  33. Barnett, Emma (18 May 2011). "Outdated copyright laws hinder growth says Government". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  34. Brunet, Maël (March 2014). "Outdated copyright laws must adapt to the new digital age". Policy Review. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  35. Kloc, Joe (12 November 2013). "Outdated copyright law makes memes illegal in Australia". Daily Dot. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  36. Trotter, Andrew (17 October 2008). "The open-content movement". Digital Directions. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  37. 1 2 Santos Silva, Dora (June 14–15, 2012). "The Future of Digital Magazine Publishing" (PDF). In Baptista, A.A.; et al. Social Shaping of Digital Publishing: Exploring the Interplay Between Culture and Technology. ELPUB - 16th International Conference on Electronic Publishing. Guimarães, Portugal. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  38. Jones, Ryan. "Are Digital Magazines Dead". Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  39. Pavlik, John; Mclntosh, Shawn. Converging Media (fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-19-934230-3.

Further reading

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